Fran L, Boca Raton FL, February 25 2016
A wonderful opportunity to meet some young Costa Ricans in their village More
Help Local Kids Learn English
For children in Costa Rica nothing beyond the Three R's in their own language is as valuable for them to learn as English. Young adults with a working knowledge of English have vastly more opportunities than their mono-lingual peers. This is especially important in Tortuguero where tourism is the largest source of employment. Yet in Tortuguero the majority of children grow-up without learning English.How Can I Help
Michael and Yolanda Kaye had wondered for years how to find a good way to involve Lodge guests at Tortuga Lodge in the surrounding community, in a way that would both be interesting for the guests and beneficial to the locals. While convinced that visitors from first world countries can bring more to a community than just financial patronage, they were wary of anything that smacked too strongly of “people from rich countries paying to do badly tasks that local people in poor countries should get paid to do well” – to quote Michael. The idea that the vast majority of our guests are experts in spoken English, and that children can pick up languages quickly from listening, is what led them eventually to Words Adventures.
Below is a video about the Word Adventure's origin, along with a 50 second video of a US preteen guiding a class:
The next step was developing a method. At first, we were operating under the idea that the exposure to English would facilitate a natural language learning environment. After a few months we decided that a more methodical teaching strategy was also needed, and that we had to up our emphasis on regular classes. Today guest visits are an invaluable teaching resource, and the core of the program, but are supported by regular coursework in the classroom.
We worked with a teacher from a San Jose school oriented towards the children of ex-pats and other foreigners in order to develop a more formal syllabus. Since then this program has been taught on a regular basis 6 days a week (different groups have class every other day).
Our first teacher was a young woman from the United States who had visited Tortuguero and stayed as our teacher for what ended up being a year. She was followed by a Costa Rican teacher, who we had for another year before she left to raise a newborn baby. Today we have Noily Campos; guide turned teacher.
Word Adventures today:
We started with a single class of 7 students. Today we have 26 students, split into four groups. 25 of our students are from the village of San Francisco while one, the child of a Lodge employee whose mother places high value on her children speaking English, travels up river from the larger town of Tortuguero. The youngest student is currently 8 years old. Our oldest student is 26; she has now moved on to helping Noily manage some of the younger groups. Most of our students attend elementary school in San Francisco, or the public high school in Tortuguero.
Click to listen to a conversation with Maciel, age 15, who is one of our original students. Recorded in May, 2014.
Xiamara, left, and Maciel, right, have been with the program for four years.
And here is what some recent guests have said about the program:
"We also loved the Words Program. Even though they didn't have the full contingent of children that they normally do, we enjoyed helping some of the kids with their English and seeing the little town of San Francisco- a very good experience for my three girls (ages 16, 13, 10). WE also came back with a desire to improve our Spanish!"
- Ktbroderick - January 2016
"We really enjoyed our visit to the local community with their teacher. We visited with our two daughters, ages 19 and 15 and it was a wonderful experience for us to learn about how children in this community lived and learned. Very worthwhile experience for everyone."
- ImpulseBuy - March 2016
"A special experience was going to San Francisco to participate in the program run by the lodge to teach children English. It was interesting to see the village and I loved working with the children. I loved meeting the teacher, Noilly. She is a dear, warm, caring person. She was also very helpful to us at the Lodge taking us on a tour of the garden when no one else was available even though that isn't her job."
- Janet & Carol Martin - February 2016
So as you can see, our education experiment in Tortuguero continues, and shows progress. We would love for you to become a part of it. If you do choose to participate in the Words Adventure program, please be sure to:
a) speak slowly and enunciate in front of the students
b) enjoy interacting with people whose worldview is different than your own
c) Tell us about it afterwards.
And if nothing else, we have soccer to bring different cultures together.
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